Sri Lanka passes constitutional amendment trimming presidential powers

Move to help secure IMF, other international assistance, says justice minister

By Reuters

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Published: Fri 21 Oct 2022, 6:08 PM

Sri Lanka's parliament on Friday passed a constitutional amendment that will trim presidential powers, beef up anti-corruption safeguards and help find a way out of the worst financial crisis in decades.

The amendment was passed with the required two-thirds majority needed in parliament to pass such laws. A total of 174 members from the 225-member house voted in favour.

Sri Lanka has struggled for months to find enough US dollars to pay for essential imports such as fuel, food, cooking gas and medicine during its worst economic downturn in more than seven decades.

Many Sri Lankans blame former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa for implementing multiple failed policies including tax cuts, a now-reversed ban on chemical fertilisers and delays in seeking International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance that worsened the crisis and resulted in the country defaulting on its foreign debt for the first time in history.

As a response to widespread anti-government protests, Rajapaksa had backed constitutional reforms that would reduce the powers of the executive presidency and allocate them to parliament in June. He resigned the next month after protesters stormed his office and residence.

"This amendment will not only help bring about the system change demanded by Sri Lankans it will also help in securing an IMF programme and other international assistance to rebuild the economy," Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe told parliament.

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